Call it the Suella Braverman and Vivek Ramaswamy effect
Limp-wristed, lefty, tofu-eaters of Indian birth are doomed to splutter into their chickpea curry in both the UK and US
Some aspects of British and American politics are rather dispiriting right now, if like me, you vote in both the US and UK and are of Indian birth and breeding.
In the UK, a woman who looks quite a bit like me is asking London’s Metropolitan Police to come down hard on “pro-Palestinian mobs” rather than pussy-footing around them. Unlike me, Suella Braverman is Home Secretary and what she says matters.
It matters that one of Britain’s most senior members of government seeks to interfere in day-to-day policing, accuses the police of a political agenda and slams the right to peacefully protest.
It matters that she calls the people who’re begging Gaza not be collectively punished “hate marchers”. It matters that she’s the same person who has previously said “multiculturalism has failed”.
Ms Braverman has many people up in arms with members of even her own party acknowledging that she is “fuelling” far-right sentiment in a “dangerous and totally irresponsible” way and that she’s serving as “a drag” on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government.
That’s unpleasant, but just as much is the view across the pond. There’s another person in the political limelight who looks like he could be my brother. But Vivek Ramaswamy isn’t spreading sweetness and light; he’s riling everyone up with his extreme and hateful views.
On Wednesday (November 8) at the third Republican primary debate, Mr Ramaswamy managed to come across as the most loathed of the five people vying to be their party’s nominee for president. Not only was he unpleasant to his rivals on the stage, he told off the NBC moderators, and mocked Nikki Haley’s foreign policy with a misogynist crack about “Dick Cheney in three-inch heels”.
He slammed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, making a Nazi reference and calling him a “comedian in cargo pants”. And he appeared not to care about the rights and wrongs of supporting the fight against Russia’s naked aggression. As Ms Haley told Mr Ramaswamy: “[Vladimir] Putin and Xi [Jinping] are salivating at the thought that someone like that could become president.”
Mr Ramaswamy has also managed to do that difficult thing – anger America’s friendly Canadian neighbours. He has proposed a 5,500-mile wall along the border in order to crack down on fentanyl flows into the US, something that Dr Frederick Gagnon, an expert on US-Canada relations at the University of Québec in Montreal, described as “quite extreme”. And useless too.
So too Ms Braverman’s interventions in the daily life of her country. There is little to suggest that she expects British life and thought to change substantially, to fit her zealotry. But she says what she does anyway, to appeal to the hard right of the Conservative Party and possibly, with a burning desire to have Guardian-reading, limp-wristed, lefty, tofu-eaters spluttering into their chickpea curry. Her personal evolution has been quite remarkable. She has gone from French-speaking Cambridge graduate who studied at the Sorbonne into an anti-immigration zealot.
As for Mr Ramaswamy, it seems like he never was anything else. He appears to not want to come across as nice, which is good, as he’s not.